Where he comes from:
Kyaw grew up in a small, rural village in the Karen State of Burma (Myanmar). He enjoyed a simple and collective way of life for much of his childhood. His people, the Karen, make up 7 percent of the Burmese population and have suffered oppression by a number of successive regimes for decades.
How he got to Australia:
Fleeing persecution from the Burmese junta, Kyaw ran away from his village when only a teenager and spent nine years languishing in a refugee camp in Thailand. Life in the refugee camp was difficult and prohibited from leaving the camp, the refugees were under constant watch of Thai soldiers. Daily food included beans and rice and if you wanted meat, you had to sneak out of the camp and risk getting caught. During the daytime, Burmese refugees in the camp went to school and learnt English, history and other subjects. In the evening, they went to the soccer club and played soccer with friends.
The “beginning” is a reality for Kyaw and his family, who arrived in Australia in September 2009. At the date of the interview, they had been here for just under four months. When they landed in Australia, Kyaw had a tremendous sense of relief that life was going to be better than before. In Burma they had to flee from persecution by the Burmese junta and in Thailand, they were afraid of the local authorities. He felt that in Australia, he had a new lease on life and did not have to worry about being mistreated or killed by police or soldiers. His family has received a lot of help from many kind people and organisations, but disappointingly, they are also experiencing difficulties with their neighbours, whose teenage children kick their front door late at night, making Kyaw’s wife and young son afraid. Kyaw says that the last tenants, who were also Karen, had similar problems with the neighbours and he is hoping to find a new place and live in a more peaceful environment.
Kyaw learnt English in the Thai refugee camp where foreign teachers sometimes ran classes. He is currently attending English and other classes at AMES in Werribee. The other students are from diverse cultural backgrounds and they not only learn about Australian culture, but also about each other’s culture. Kyaw really enjoys this opportunity as in Burma he did not meet people from other cultures. He has a lot of friends in the class and thinks it is humorous how they each speak English with a different accent.
Kyaw met his beautiful wife in the Thai refugee camp and their son, who is now 20 months old son, was born there. They are very happy because they have another baby on the way!
In Burma they had to flee from persecution by the Burmese junta and in Thailand, they were afraid of the local authorities. He felt that in Australia, he had a new lease on life and did not have to worry about being mistreated or killed by police or soldiers.
In their spare time, Kyaw and his family like to watch movies, study or surf the net. Many friends invite Kyaw to play soccer, but because his wife is afraid to stay home alone with the baby and because he doesn’t have a car, he cannot join them as much as he would like to. Kyaw also likes to spend time with friends from the Karen community, especially on Sunday when they go to church together.
What he misses about Burma the most:
Kyaw misses his brother, sister and parents. Even though he feels he has a better life here, his brother and sister are still in a refugee camp and he hopes they can join him in Australia soon.
Hopes and dreams:
Kyaw’s hopes for the future are to improve his English, study IT and work as an IT technician. He hopes that his son can soon go to childcare and play with the other children there. When he and the little one on the way grow up, Kyaw hopes that they can get an education. He also hopes that his wife can learn to speak fluent English and find work in the future.
Kyaw’s final message was to say that life in Burma was very difficult and he hopes that the rest of his family can also be accepted for resettlement in Australia and make this their new, safe home.